News Item: : Sa’diyya Shaikh: Exegetical Violence: Nushuz in Quraanic Gender Ideology (permission given)
(Category: Knowledge Resources > Violence Against Women)
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Tuesday 04 January 2011


"The manipulation of sacred text has always been a structural characteristic of the practice of power in Muslim societies" Fatima Mernissi.

1. Introduction

Qur’anic scholarship over the past fourteen centuries has developed into a prolific and highly specialised field. Historically this discipline has primarily remained the domain of men and has chiefly represented their experiences and worldviews. This male bias has resulted in the systematic exclusion of women’s perspectives from the dominant religious discourses.

In this paper I will show how the practice of patriarchal power in medieval Muslim societies has been mediated through understandings of the Qur’an. I will examine and analyze medieval Qur’anic exegesis in order to focus on how the practice of religious power defined and reflected existing gender ideology and gender relations.  I will argue that the ideological tenets embedded in a patriarchal understanding of the Qur’an and Islam fosters a mode of gender relations which practically disempower Muslim women. My particular interest in this study is directed at the relationship between Islamic gender ideology and its implications for violence against women.

I begin with a preliminary outline of the significance of the Qur'an in Muslim societies and the related centrality of exegesis. Here I provide a rationale for my focus on the interpretations of particular exegetes. Secondly, I describe my methodology which is the application of feminist hermeneutics to the exegetical studies. Thirdly, I proceed with my own analysis of the exegesis. Here I focus on the interpretations of the verse Q.4:34 as the index of socio‑religious gender constructions.

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